RPC works to empower millennials through college completion, flexibility, affordability policies
WASHINGTON—Today, the House Republican Policy Committee (RPC) Millennial Task Force held its third hearing on empowering the Millennial Generation for success in the 21st Century global economy. The hearing, Chaired by Rep. Elise Stefanik, focused on college completion, flexibility and affordability.
“As the first member of my immediate family to graduate from college, the issue of college affordability and accessibility is a top priority of mine,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “The Millennial Generation in our country is being crushed by soaring college costs and student loan debt, and as lawmakers, we must find solutions to address affordability and flexibility in higher education.”
Witnesses who testified at today’s hearing on how to reduce debt and encourage college completion included Jack Remondi, President & CEO of Navient; Lauren Kent, a student and military veteran; James Kennedy, Associate Vice President of Indiana University Student Services and Systems; and Stan Jones, President of Complete College America.
“Over the last 20 years, more than 31 million students have gone off to college but never earned a degree,” said Jones. “Far too many students get lost in the process, slowed down by unclear expectations, numerous obstacles, and having no clear pathway to graduation day.”
Lauren Kent testified that she is one of those students having a hard time finding a clear path to graduation. She is a former member of the Armed Forces who has three children and is married to an active duty soldier.
“From the beginning, pursuing an undergraduate degree has been fraught with challenges, some created by personal choice, others outside of my control,” said Kent. “As an active duty military member, I worked odd shifts and long, unpredictable hours which prevented me from attending traditional college classes.”
Kent asserted that her challenges are not unique and that many students in the millennial generation face obstacles like unmanageable student loan debt, difficulty accessing classes needed to graduate and a “poor employment climate post-graduation.”
Several witnesses offered solutions to the college completion and debt crisis including reforming the Pell Grant system, promoting financial literacy, simplifying loan repayment and encouraging students to take at least 15 credit hours per semester.
“Indiana University’s ‘15 to Finish’ campaign promotes taking 15 credits per semester to graduate in four years and minimize debt,” said Kennedy. “As a result, IUPUI and other IU regional campuses are showing a 42% increase in the number of students taking 15 or more credits per semester. This initiative coupled with financial literacy programs has really made an impact. IU had 20,000 students receive a degree in both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years. This was a new record for the university.”
And, while many schools, like IU, are working hard to help students complete college on time and with less debt, Chairman Messer believes more can be done at the Federal level to empower millennials seeking a degree or certificate after high school.
“The status quo is leaving millions of millennials behind,” said Rep. Messer, Chairman of the RPC. “So, it’s time to get innovative, and I know the Republican Party, with the help of the higher education community, can be part of the solution. It’s clear from today’s hearing that policies encouraging students to graduate on-time, with less debt, with degrees they can use in the workforce, will help the Millennial Generation succeed in our evolving economy. I look forward to continuing our work on the Millennial Task Force and presenting solutions that will empower millennials to succeed in their pursuit of higher education.”
Today’s hearing was streamed live on YouTube and can be viewed here.
President & CEO, Navient Corporation
Associate Vice-President & Director of Financial Aid, Indiana University
Student Advocate, State University of New York System